Midland Berryhill topples Marinette to defend title

Justin St. Ours | Daily Press Midland Berryhill’s Carson Cooley hits the ball against Marinette during Gregg Johnson-Al Erickson Memorial tournament finals Sunday at Escanaba.

ESCANABA — Midland Berryhill has been a constant contender in its many visits to the Gregg Johnson/Al Erickson Memorial American Legion Baseball tournament.

The downstate squad, despite missing seven of its regular starters, brought home the championship trophy for the second time in three years following a 5-3 triumph over Marinette here Sunday.

Leftfielder Gage Chapin, the tourney’s Most Valuable Player on offense, drove in the game-winner with a single to left, then scored on a fielding error in the sixth inning.

Midland (10-1) trailed 3-1 after four frames, but tied the score on rightfielder Derek Beougher’s two-run single to left in the fifth.

Midland’s second and third runs came on the heels of Chapin’s diving catch on a flyball by Mason Risner to end the fourth.

“That was a heck of a play to get us out of the inning,” said Midland manager Steve Cronkright. “The tying runs gave us a little momentum and the go-ahead runs made it easier for our pitcher (reliever Jeff Allen).”

Marinette got two runners aboard on walks with two out in the sixth, but was unable to capitalize.

Midland, last year’s World Series runner-up, opened the scoring on first-baseman Jeff Landis’ double to right-center in the first.

Marinette tied the score on Jaden Werner’s single to left in its half of the inning.

Rightfielder Brandon Eick gave Marinette a 2-1 lead on a wild pitch in the second and leftfielder Nolan Lemke’s single to center made it 3-1 in the third.

“We competed,” said Marinette manager Brian Lesandrini.

“We’ve been in this tournament four times and this is the farthest we made it while I’ve been coaching. Making it to the championship game was an honor. I’m just proud of the effort we made against one of the best teams in the country. Their guy made one heck of a catch at the end of the fourth.”

Midland got baserunners aboard on back-to-back fielding errors with two out in the third, but failed to score.

“We got behind a couple times in this tournament,” said Cronkright. “They (Marinette) made some real nice plays. Their centerfielder (Trevor Bloch) really ran some balls down.”

Leftfielder Nolan Lemke, the tourney’s defensive MVP, also provided help in the outfield for this year’s runners-up.

“Our centerfielder plays at UW-Whitewater,” said Lesandrini. “He can cover some ground. Our outfielders did a nice job and starting pitcher (Mason Risner) did an outstanding job. He kept them off balance.”

Risner, who worked 5 1/3 innings, took the loss. He struck out three, walked one, hit a batter and allowed five runs on eight hits.

Allen pitched three innings in relief of Jake Stone. Allen fanned one, walked two and allowed no hits. Stone whiffed one, walked five, hit a batter and gave up three runs on two hits.

“Jake has had some back injuries,” said Cronkright. “I’m tickled with the way he threw. Jeff has a lot of stamina and is kind of a flipper (with sidearm pitches). They hit the ball, but had a hard time finding the gaps.”

Marinette committed five errors, all in the infield. Midland had one. Nobody had more than one hit for either team.

“The errors kind of caught up with us,” said Lesandrini. “You can’t make those against a team of this caliber. Although, the guys gave a great effort. This is a great tournament and the weather was perfect. The ground crews did an excellent job getting the fields ready.”

In the semifinals, Midland rallied past defending champ DePere, Wis. 8-6 in Escanaba. Marinette did likewise in a 9-8 triumph over Kimberly, Wis. at Gladstone.

Midland trailed 6-3, then sliced its deficit to one on a two-run homer by Landis in the fifth and got the game-winner on a three-run shot to right by Shane Juday.

Adam Randall notched the complete-game victory, giving up six runs on five hits. Tyler Blum absorbed the loss.

At Gladstone, Marinette appeared to be cruising with a 5-1 lead after five frames.

Kimberly then erupted for seven runs in the sixth, gaining an 8-5 advantage.

Marinette, cashing in on three hits, two walks and a hit batsman, regained the lead in its half of the sixth.

Winning pitcher Seth Seefeldt, who worked six innings, struck out two, walked two, hit a batter and surrendered eight runs on eight hits. Reiss Thayer took the loss in relief of Kaleb Vandenberg, who fanned two, walked four and hit three through five frames.

Marinette finished with 10 hits, including two each by Werner and Risner. Trenton Holz and Matt Holland had two apiece for Kimberly, which had eight hits.